Can syndication find the next hit?

Quick, when was the last true first-run syndicated hit?

Though many syndicators would argue, it was six years ago with Dr. Phil averaging a 4.4 Nielsen rating in its freshman season.

Before that, you would have to go all the way back to June 1996 for the last breakout hit – Warner Bros.’ The Rosie O’Donnell Show. And if you want to go find out was the next breakout hit was before Rosie, you would have to go back all the way to 1987 when Geraldo Rivera’s talk show hit it big.

This recent Broadcasting & Cable article dives into how syndicators are trying to find the next syndicated hit and in some cases, trying to re-structure a program’s economic model so it can be more profitable for all parties involved.

With fragmentation the rule of the day now, it is increasingly harder and harder to launch a new first-run syndicated strip or weekly show. Then again, it was just as hard in the 1980’s and 1990’s, where hit shows right off the bat were just as hard to come by.

This fall’s new strips hope to gain traction by appealing to different demos. And the fun begins on Sept. 8, with CBS launching a new medical talk show titled The Doctors (not related to the 1963-82 NBC daytime serial of the same name) and two new courtroom strips – Sony’s Judge Karen and Program Partners’ Family Court with Judge Penny.

Warner Bros. is launching the lone general-format talk show with The Bonnie Hunt Show, featuring Chicagoan Bonnie Hunt, while two game shows are launching: Debmar-Mercury’s Trivial Pursuit: America Plays (debuts Sept. 22), and NBC Universal’s Deal or No Deal.

Warner Bros. is programming CW’s 3-5 p.m. time slot in all time zones, with the new Judge Jeanne Pirro (shot at the NBC Tower in Chicago) and repeats of The Wayans Bros. and The Jamie Foxx Show.

No off-network sitcoms are launching this season – unless you count Debmar’s Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, which is coming off a successful run on TBS; and Litton’s off-cable series Punk’d. Also on tap are two new weeklies: Disney/ABC’s Legend of the Seeker, which debuts Nov. 3, and Litton’s Storm Seekers, which bows the week of Sept. 29.

Off-net weeklies coming down the pike this fall include Disney/ABC’s Desperate Housewives and Lost; Twentieth’s Boston Legal; and CBS Television Distribution’s CSI: New York.

What’s out of syndication:

Here’s what yours truly knows so far…

– Twentieth’s Temptation and Sony’s Judge Maria Lopez have been confirmed canceled.

– Radar’s Jury Duty lost its WPIX clearence in New York, so its likely gone as well.

– Sony is supposedly pulling repeats of The Shield from syndication.

According to Sitcoms Online, WPIX in New York has dropped repeats of Soul Train from its lineup, meaning the dance music’s long run on the station has come to an end. No word on the fate of the show on WGN-TV and WGN America.

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